Sunday, September 26, 2010

Home Grown...By Someone Else

I grew up in a land of hot, hot summers with an avid gardener. I took it for granted that whatever you put in the ground grew. Not just grew, but grew with a wild abandon. Tomato plants flourished and in the spot where last year's tomatoes had grown, volunteers cheerfully sprouted and bore fruit. Peas clambered toward the sky, shyly hiding their pods behind fans of greenery. Squash and melon vines snaked their way around the garden, flowered, and threatened to take over the rest of the growing space with their enormous leaves.

It took me many years of attempted gardening in the temperate Northwest to figure out that I did not have the same recipe for gardening that my father did. Even if I bought the best seeds, amended the soil with rich compost loam, transplanted indoor-started seedlings after the last danger of frost, and weeded industriously, I had no guarantees that my efforts would yield anything other than slug fodder. The fickle nature of the weather meant that a spring that started with hardy starts and high hopes would most likely end under grey, drizzly cloud cover with sadly stunted, yellowing vines and no produce to harvest. Oh, and I have a brown thumb, so any starts to come into my house are pretty much doomed.

This year my gardening efforts culminated in a single tomato. Yes, just one. And it was a cherry tomato at that. Above is a picture of my son holding our amazing harvest.

I've finally resigned myself to the fact that I'm a terrible gardener and attempt only tomatoes in containers and herbs in the ground, because herbs are basically good-tasting weeds and weeds are all that I'm really good at growing.

Oddly, even though I can't grow them myself, I resent having to pay money for produce that I know my parents are desperately trying to give away. It's not worth the 17 hour drive to go get a bag of free zucchinis, but I still feel ornery forking over cash for them at the market.

When I saw this recipe, though, I know it was worth it to pay cash for the squash. My zucchini-hating family gobbled it up and looked forlorn when the pan was empty. If you find an end of the season monster lurking in your yard, you definitely need to make this cake. And if you have to actually buy zucchini, it's still worth it. It's moist, delicious, plus it has the bonus of sneaking some veggies into your dessert course.

Note: I had an end of season bag of cherries in my refrigerator, so I halved them and added them to the cake. They are entirely optional, but really take the cake over the top

Chocolate Cherry Zucchini Cake
- adapted from homespun living

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups shredded zucchini
3/4 cup pitted, halved sweet cherries (optional, but very good)
1 Tbsp vanilla

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. Grease a 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan (jellyroll pan).

2- In a mixing bowl combine the sugar, oil, and yogurt. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3- In a medium bowl, measure the dry ingredients, whisking to combine.

4- Add the dry ingredients in 4 additions, alternating with the milk in 3 additions. Stir in the zucchini, cherries and vanilla. Spread in prepared pan.

5- Bake 30 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack. When cake is at room temperature, frost.

Quick Chocolate Frosting

1-1/3 cups sugar
6 Tbsp milk
6 Tbsp butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1- In a medium saucepan heat sugar, milk, and butter to boiling. Boil 30 seconds.

2- Remove from heat and add chocolate chips, stirring until the chips are melted. Spread over the cooled cake.


Anh said...

I don't even grow herb successfully! So I share with you the sentiment there.

And what a beautiful cake this is!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

Snjeaking the cherries in there along with some healthy zucchini goodness is the way to go Lynn.

scrambledhenfruit said...

Don't discount your little tomato- it's so cute! I love the zucchini cake- that's probably the only way I could get hubby to eat it. :)

CaSaundraLeigh said...

I made a chocolate zucchini cake a couple weeks ago, but I like the sounds of yours with the addition of the cherries much better!

Elle said...

It's great how ideas get moved around the blogosphere. Except for the milk and some slight variations in amounts of flour and sugar this is like the bread I posted last year...including the addition of cherries to a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread without that I found (and gave credit to) on another blog. Interesting that the blog where you found it posted it a year before that! but without the cherres and those are, perhaps, your additions? I like the idea of making it as a cake and putting on icing is an even better variation for a cake lover like me! Love that variations of this recipe have been all around and that you made it even better!!

Homemade Heaven said...

Someone asked me yesterday if I had any ideas of how she could use 7kgs of courgettes she had bought. I am sending her right here! This is like a sheep in wolf's clothing!

AshLey said...

Thanks for sharing these awesome recipes!!
Please visit my blog. There is only 1 recipe at the moment as i just started out.
Enjoy and thanks again.

RecipeGirl said...

I'm a terrible gardener... only herbs grow in my presence. This cake looks delicious & I love the idea of adding cherries to it.

LyB said...

Ah, but such a cute tomato, Lynn! ;) I love any dessert, muffin or quick bread with zucchini in it so this is definitely going in the bookmarks!

DANIELLE said...

love it! can't resist-how did u take that first pic so perfectly?? I can tell u had a low f-stop number but wondering if u stood close or far and zoomed or not? Thanks for any tips. LOVE your blog!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Mrs Baron - Actually my husband took that shot, so he thanks you for the compliment. It was at F 1.8 with lots of natural daylight and a Nikon 50 mm lens, non-zoom.

eatme_delicious said...

I love that there are cherries in this cake! I applaud your gardening efforts. I'm just beginning and it definitely takes a lot of dedication.